Another week nearly through the gate, here on the recovering Mississippi gulf coast. Strangely, there seems to be an armada of airplanes flying directly over my trailer at this very moment. Hmmmm… someone making a movie…??
This past week saw two good friends and fellow volunteers of many years from Wisconsin, Dwight and Dale, spending the week here, helping rebuild a home damage by Hurricane Katrina, over in Biloxi. When they arrived last Saturday morning, I took them on a tour of the coastal area from Gulfport over to Pearlington, on the Louisiana border, so they could get a real good feel for the number Katrina did here on the coast. They worked hard all week, had a good time joking and joshin’ with each other, and seemed to enjoy their week away from the monster Wisconsin winter.
Thursday evening, we got together for supper and conversation, as they related their week’s experiences doing carpentry, re-installing windows that someone else had previously installed rather incorrectly, and trying to install and match siding, something neither had attempted before in their lives. It was a good evening, good food, good conversation, and good fellowship among friends. It was also awesome to be able to spend some quality time visiting with friends from back home, in Wisconsin. Friday evening, after working all day on their project, they packed up and headed back north, to the cold and snow.
Before leaving, the fellows said they would be back; Dale with a Lions Club group, and Dwight, hopefully in October, depending upon his work demands. Dwight says that next time, he would probably prefer to leave the comfortable accommodations of Camp Biloxi, and opt to stay and work over in almost forgotten Pearlington, where no home or structure escaped Katrina’s flood surge. Herbie Ritchie and Larry Randall, Co-Directors of the Pearlington Recovery Center, have organized a grassroots recovery operation there on the Mississippi-Louisiana border, mostly without government help and red tape, to help the families in their small, unincorporated community, to rebuild their homes, one at a time, with volunteer workers and volunteer financial assistance. They have their work cut out for them, but they know that, having dealt with constant delay and disappointment in the rebuilding process during the past 32 months since Katrina paid them a watery and windy visit.
As Katrina swept into his community that dark, stormy morning in August of 2005, and the storm surge waters rolled up his driveway and rose into his home, Herbie and his family had to swim for a boat he had been trying to sell, still parked in his front yard, the only saviour close enough to help the family stay alive. They all finally made it into the boat, just barely. Their home still sits unoccupied, still needing final repairs, before they may leave their nearby travel trailer, and, one again, be home.
Dwight and Dale had the opportunity to meet and briefly talk with Herbie last Saturday, about his continuing efforts to help his community get back on its feet. Our two Wisconsin volunteers will be back, this time to help Herbie and his neighbors, and they can use a lot of help from other volunteers from back in Wisconsin.
The Pearlington Recovery Center is pretty much a self-contained volunteer work camp, having bunks, showers, toilets, a tool room, and a kitchen and a large food tent. It’s not fancy, and is probably what you might call ‘rustic,’ but you can stay there very inexpensively (they ask for a $5.00 donation per each day of your stay) while you are volunteering to help breathe life back into the community. They also need financial donations to help purchase building materials for the homes of families of limited financial means. One thing you will love about the place is all the Spanish Moss growing on the Live Oak trees! Absolutely beautiful!
So, to Dwight and Dale, thanks again for coming down to help out families in need, as you have been doing now for at least 10 years in Mississippi. You are to be commended for your generous, caring hearts and terrific human spirits!
Good job, gentlemen, and y’all hurry back now, hear?